LADSPA plugins for mixing: My favorite basic plugins (by zthmusic)

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This article was originally published by Gabbe Nordeborn on his music projects website zthmusic.com on January 1, 2014.

This is the LADSPA equivalent of this post on LV2 plugins for mixing. For those people who still prefer LADSPA’s, or who uses hosts who don’t support LV2 plugins. I recommend reading the previously linked post on LV2 plugins first if you’re new to this, as it covers some of the differences between LADSPA and LV2, and so on. This will also more or less be a clone of the last post, so some descriptions will be very familiar to you if you read the previous one (all thanks to the time-saving greatness of copy+paste!).

As with the post on LV2 plugins, these LADSPA plugins are all plugins I regularly use, or have used, and therefore can recommend.

Now, this post will be shorter than the last one obviously. But, lets dive right into it again, with the LADSPA plugins this time!

LADSPA plugins in this post

In this post, I will go through the LADSPA plugins like I did with the LV2 plugins. So, like with the previous post, the plugins in this post will include:

  • An equalizer
  • A compressor
  • A delay
  • A reverb

These will form a good plugin kit for mixing for you.

LADSPA – what is it?

So, what is LADSPA?

LADSPA stands for Linux Audio Developer’s Simple Plugin API, and is the older Linux audio plugin architecture. LV2 (LADSPA Version 2) was made to succeed LADSPA, but quite a few still uses LADSPA. Believe me when I say my technical knowledge ends here.

For us mortal users, one of the more obvious factors of LADSPA is that it doesn’t provide a possibility of plugins having their own graphical interface. What this effectively means, at least for the end user, is that every LADSPA plugin looks very similar and generic. Some people love this, others….. don’t love it. Personally, I’m somewhere in between. I’d rather have a standardized, generic look, than an ugly custom made look on a plugin. But I’d also much rather have a nice, custom made, beautiful and functional look on a plugin, than a generic one.

Another important distinction between LADSPA and other plugins architectures on Linux, like LV2, DSSI, and VST, is the fact that LADSPA don’t handle instruments. At least not from what I understand. That’s worth keeping in mind when looking around for plugins.

If you can explain LADSPA better than me, I’d love to hear it in the comments. Don’t be mad if I copy paste it in here though ;)

Equalizer

The equalizer lets you sculpt your sound, by adding or removing gain at different frequencies. The equalizer is commonly used for a number of different things, like to make instruments fit together, by emphasizing them on different frequencies. For example, if you’d want to make your vocals stand out more, you find where your vocals has their most prominent frequencies, and then de-emphasize those frequencies on the other instruments competing for the same frequency room. Anyway, I’m digressing.

LADSPA equalizer of choice: FIL Parametric Equalizer

…aka “Fons’ Parametric Equalizer“. This is the original plugin, of which I choose a port as the best LV2 equalizer plugin in the post about LV2 plugins. The LADSPA version is exactly the same, processing wise, just different in its GUI.

You can find the plugin (together with lots of other great Linux audio plugins and software) at Fons’ own website. If you have KXStudio, you can install it, plus a number of additional great plugins, via:

sudo apt-get install fil-plugins

…although I’m sure it’s available in other distributions as well.

Compressor

The compressor also lets you sculpt the sound, but instead of manipulating the frequencies directly, it manipulates the dynamics of the sound. It’s commonly used for evening out the levels of a sound, or to put emphasis on certain parts of a sound. For example, you could use a compressor on your vocals to even out its levels, making it more audible in your song, through a more consistent and higher volume.

LADSPA compressor of choice: SC4

This is one of many awesome plugins by Steve Harris. It has everything you need, and its’ little brother, SC3, also has sidechaining capabilities! I have a tutorial on sidechaining in Ardour 3 using SC3 here.

The plugin can be found at Steve Harris‘ website. You can also install it, and again, a set of additional great plugins, in KXStudio (and probably a lot of other distributions as well) by doing:

sudo apt-get install swh-plugins

Delay

Echo’s, delay’s… I’m sure there’s more names. These plugins all produce an echo effect, which can be usable in a lot of different ways. I have personally always been very fond of delay’s, which I’m sure is very noticeable in my music. I usually use it both as an effect in itself, and as a form of glue in my mix, where I feed most instruments into the same delay, to make a small, barely noticeable delay “tail”, which helps glue the sound together. Again, I’m digressing…

LADSPA delay of choice: TAP Stereo Echo

To be completely honest, I haven’t quite used any other delay than the Calf Vintage Delay LV2 in my days of music production. I just found that right away, and fell in love with it. But, I did do some external research on this, and this plugin seems to be one of the LADSPA's that are recommended the most. It’s also fairly similar to the Calf Vintage Delay.

You can find the plugin at the TAP Plugins website. Using KXStudio (and probably other distributions as well), you can find the plugin in your package manager. Install it in KXStudio via:

sudo apt-get install tap-plugins

Reverb

The reverb is what adds sparkle to your mix. Now, there’s a number of different types of reverbs, like halls, plates, and what not. What I will be advocating here is a solid and versatile reverb, that I think works for most occasions. It also sounds really great.

LADSPA reverb of choice: Zita-Rev

Another one of Fons’ plugins, the Zita-Rev is just unmatched when it comes to reverbs that I have tried. It sounds great, and it’s from the demigod of DSP himself, so what else is there to think about. Get it!

You can find the plugin at Fons’ website, under the plugins called REV. With KXStudio (and like previously mentioned, probably through a lot of other distributions as well), do:

sudo apt-get install rev-plugins


All of the LADSPA plugins in this post, loaded in Ardour 3

Wrapping up

There, now you have some basic LADSPA plugins as well. If you have differing opinions on which LADSPA plugins might be the best bang for the buck (although they’re free ;) ), please let me know in the comments. Til next time, thanks for reading!

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